Queue-Jumping Bicyclists

Question

Dana asked:  As more bicycles and riders enter our roadways and ride in traffic with motor vehicles, I am concerned that certain bike riders that I encounter seem to display a righteous indignance about the “3 foot law” when they are being overtaken by a car, but the same riders do not seem to think this law applies when traffic comes to a halt at traffic signal or intersection. I’ll describe a certain aggravating situation I have dubbed: “leap-frogging.”

For example: Two or more bike riders are riding abreast in the right lane of traffic on a multilane roadway in heavy traffic. Cars behind the bikes are unable to change lanes and safely pass because of the speed differential of traffic created by the impediment of slow-moving bikes in the right lane, versus the rapidly moving cars in the left lane. When an opening in traffic allows a car following the bikes to change lanes and safely pass the group of bikes in the left lane, all is well again until traffic reaches the next intersection or signal.

At the intersection, the cars stop and maintain their positions in line, while the group of cyclists break their lane-controlling two-abreast formation to overtake the stopped vehicles by narrowly passing between the cars to set themselves up at the head of the line of traffic waiting for the signal to change. They have now successfully, but illegally, leap-frogged the vehicle(s) that had safely and patiently overtaken them prior.

In other posts on your site, you have encouraged cyclists to get the license plate number of motor vehicles that have violated the 3 foot law, and to report that information to law enforcement (presumably so that the offender might receive a citation, and/or fine). However, in the leap-frogging situation, it is nearly impossible to identify the violating cyclist(s), because they do not display any identification or registration. Cyclists operate with nearly complete anonymity, and because of this, some cyclists extend this notion to being able to operate their vehicles on the roadway with impunity because they cannot be readily identified or reported to law enforcement for any alleged violations of the uniform traffic laws. Even if they are caught in the illegal act by law enforcement, and receive a citation, they do not suffer the same consequences as a motorist cited with a moving violation, that carries with it the consequences of “points” and/or increased insurance costs, etc.

My Question Is: How can laws be equally enforced against motorists and bicyclists when this unequal identification loophole for bikes exists, and where cyclists have no real fear of being identified by other vehicles, thus avoiding possible citation or punishment?

In my opinion, if cyclists have all of the rights and duties applicable to other drivers (i.e. pursuant to s. 316.2065 Fla. Stat.), then they should be burdened with the same duty to display a registration, as do other low-speed vehicles (See by analogy: s. 316.2122 Fla. Stat., which applies to low-speed motor vehicles). Allowing this double-standard under the law to endure, and the illegal behavior that it promotes with the leap-frogging members of the cycling population, will only serve to continue to increase the friction between the motoring and cycling communities, because of actual and perceived inequities.

I would encourage you to consider that the issue raised in my question falls squarely within one of your quoted maxims on your site:  “Creating a safer and more hospitable environment for cycling requires law enforcement equity.”

Answer

Some of your comments have been cut for the sake of brevity.  I don’t believe they affect the main theme of your question.

Another name for this is queue-jumping, a common occurrence.  Under some circumstances, it may be unlawful.

s. 316.083 – Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction …. shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance.

s. 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic – Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules, in addition to all others consistent herewith, shall apply:

(1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane

However, the “three foot “ law does not apply to bicyclists overtaking motor vehicles, only to other drivers (Including bicyclists) overtaking bicycles.

s. 316.083 continues:

The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

Cyclists overtaking and passing on the right is not unlawful under certain circumstances, such as when the lane is wide enough to allow two lines of traffic.  That is not defined any further, indicating the problems with some of the statutes.

s. 316.084 – When Overtaking on the Right is Permitted

(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(b) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving traffic in each direction.

Cyclists may use a paved shoulder.  Drivers of motor vehicles may not.

Let’s assume this is a substandard-width lane with a curb and no paved shoulder.

Whether the cyclists are riding two abreast or single file in a substandard-width lane is inconsequential.  Motorists must change lanes to pass.  See Substandard-Width Lanes.

I certainly agree that this behavior is rude and unsafe.  It also is illogical.  Even if t is done within the laws, these cyclists have just passed and ticked off the drivers who will again be trying to pass them when the light changes.  Instead of using the normal traffic patterns of ebb and flow to their advantage by waiting until the traffic abates or waiting in line behind other drivers, they are endangering themselves and irritating the people who will be trying to pass them.

Obtaining information and reporting unlawful actions is encouraged for both cyclists and motorists.  Unfortunately, in many instances, cyclists claim their reports to law enforcement about non-criminal traffic violations are met with “Since we didn’t observe it, we can’t take action”.  Even recording a plate number does not help in many cases.  Having a license plate on a bicycle could be the same.

We encourage officers to cite violations by cyclists.  If all law enforcement would take violations of the laws about bicycling seriously and accurately cite all cyclists and motorists for infractions, we could make a big change to the roadway environment and greatly reduce the conflict, crashes, deaths and injuries.

The deaths and injuries of cyclists are frequently the result of their own illegal actions.

Continued reporting of violations can make law enforcement and other government officials aware of a chronic problem, which will eventually get attention and the locations that present problems can be identified.  Reporting violations is recommended for all roadway users.  Cycling groups usually ride the same routes on the same days.  Have you called the police when these incidents occur?

As you said, our purpose is “Creating a safer and more hospitable environment for cycling requires law enforcement equity.”  We do that by making information about the laws available for everyone to use for education and enforcement.

You are proposing a change to the laws, which may result from better education about the problems with the laws as they are written, but that is not the mission of this site.  We can only help educate users of this site about existing laws.

Licensing of bicyclists has been discussed for many years.  The Florida Bicycle Association has a legislative agenda to propose changes to the laws.  I will separately forward your suggestion to them for their consideration.  I will ask them to address it directly with you.

Posted in Ask Geo, Overtaking & Passing Tagged with: , , , ,
3 comments on “Queue-Jumping Bicyclists
  1. EZ Biker says:

    A fellow cycling friend posed some questions / concerns about licenses for bicyclists. Here’s the link to that post: http://ezbiker.blogspot.com/2010/07/bicycle-license-0r-wpf-part-2.html

    IMHO, bicycle licenses would about as effective at that so-called… 3FT rule… :-@

  2. Jud says:

    It is not called “leap frogging” or “queue jumping”. It is called lane splitting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lane_splitting

  3. Barry Smith says:

    Based on the above it sounds like cyclist’s want to be considered a vehicle like cars except when they don’t like the rule. Why doesn’t the FBA and other cyclying clubs actively discourage queue jumping. I also do not agree that lane splitting is the same thing. Lane splitting as I understand it is during a traffic jam, not when there is 5 or 6 cars at a traffic signal. It is also burdensome to call police. It is like calling to report someone ran a stop sign. So as a motorist all I am left with is to verbally assualt the offenders and try to ruin their day as they have ruined mine.

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